Good morning three people who read this blog, how are you? Let’s talk about the weather. It’s uncomfortably muggy here. How muggy is it? It’s as muggy as opening day in Tottenham’s new Europe’s Largest Team Gift Shop, where there are queues of mugs buying mugs with pictures of the mugs they support on them.
I apologize for that, I just wanted to say that Tottenham are some mugs.
Yesterday Arsenal beat Sporting 1-0 in Lisbon and it was another match that followed a now familiar pattern: start slow, look like we are going to possibly lose, Emery tweaks things, Arsenal win and look much more comfortable as they finish the match, players who looked poor suddenly look a revelation, and like agent K flashing that red “forgetting laser” the previous 80 minutes of football is washed from our brains and we are left singing songs about how great Granit Xhaka is at left back.
Ok, that’s two metaphors. I will stop now, it’s becoming abusive.
I wrote a quick stats preview for yesterday’s match on the Arsenal Review and from that preview I came away with the following keys to the game:
- Break the Sporting press with smooth passing and teamwork
- Attack at pace, dribble at Coates in and around the box
- Be ready for a lot of tackles and rotational fouling (see point one)
- Watch out for diving Nani
- Help Bellerin down the right (one way to do this is shift play to the left)
- Take our chances
- Break the press: I can’t tell if we are really struggling or if teams are really testing us. Or maybe that we aren’t really struggling as much as the fans (myself included) think we are struggling. Or maybe we really are struggling. Or maybe it really doesn’t matter. Against Sporting, Arsenal actually counter-pressed in the first half. Arsenal attempted 15 tackles (to Sporting’s 16) and made 6 interceptions (to Sporting’s 1). Those Interceptions mostly (5/6) happened high up the pitch in the opposition half.
- Passing wasn’t smooth in the first half, Guendouzi had five bad passes and was robbed of the ball twice. I’ve made no secret of the fact that he’s my favorite player and the one thing I’d like to see him get better at is protecting the ball. He can’t be falling all over the place under pressure, like he did in the first half. That said, that’s a strength and confidence thing. As he hits the gym and gets stronger and as he gets more top-flight time under his belt he will learn how to better protect himself from fouls and pressure.
- Sporting did tackle a lot, but only in the first half. In the second half, they hardly even attempted a tackle. That’s strange. I still can’t quite figure out what Emery is doing that radically changes these games. It’s not just changing personnel. That’s way too simplistic and anyone who tells you that it was just bringing on Torreira is blowing smoke because Torreira starts games that start badly as often as he’s brought on late and they end well. There is something subtle changing here that I haven’t caught yet. I know that we are passing better and when Torreira came on, we switched to a 4231 and Guendouzi hit 97% of his passes. But again, we play 4231 in firsat halfs. We play Torreira and a passing mid in first halfs. If you see what Emery is doing, please tell us so that I can steal the idea and pretend it’s mine.
- Granit left back. It’s a metaphor.
- Nani did dive. Manchester United players really are the worst people on the planet.
- Coates is and always has been a disaster. Arsenal were close to winning a penalty off a foul on the edge of the box (by Coates on Welbs) but it was Coates’ error that eventually gifted Danny the goal. Coates also headbutted the Lich and here’s hoping that he DOESN’T get a retroactive ban. I want him on the pitch for our next match.
- “Help Bellerin” – ehh, or Lich. They did actually. Part of the reason Unai played a 433 to start was so that Lich had Ramsey and Mkhi on the right helping him against Acuna. Acuna was still Sporting’s best player but he didn’t create a single shot for his teammates all match. He did have 3 dribbles, all down the right, all in the first half. He also had to make 6 tackles, 5 in the first 60 minutes. And he was dispossessed twice by Emery’s first half high press.
- Taking the chances. We did. Torreira played the pass to Auba, Auba flicked on, Coates didn’t get to the ball (error), and Welbeck finished nicely. Arsenal only had three really good chances in this match: one from Ramsey to Aubameyang (keeper save), one from Guendouzi to Welbeck (blocked), and the Welbeck goal. Somehow Auba isn’t credited with the assist on that goal, which is a shame.
Anyway, it’s yet another win from a slow start and the 11th win in a row. Emery is doing all of the things we wanted in a post-Wenger manager: he’s changing things when they aren’t working (“Wenger 70th minute subs”), he plays different systems (the mythical plan B), he’s brought in new players and is giving chances to young players, he’s uncovered unknown gems (Guendouzi) from lower leagues, and he’s revitalized the careers of players like Iwobi. If we were Tottenham we would be releasing a DVD “The Starting 11: How Unai Emery became King of North London with his 11 match win streak”. Or something. But we are the Arsenal. So instead, we will stew about it.
Like a deeply red stew, that’s been sitting on the stove for about 4 years.
Metaphor Source: my deeply disturbed brain